Telling the truth about sports and monsters.


049) Big Nate: In the Zone by Lincoln Peirce , finished June 23

I'm not sure I've ever bumped into Nate in the newspaper funny pages, though he's been there for over two decades. Anyway, if I have, he didn't make an impression. These books though, beloved by my kids and amusing to me, have made an impression. I find the packaging interesting. Instead of booking the strips chronologically, year by year, they're thematic. This one is sports-themed. The first section is basketball, the second baseball, the last soccer. In true Charlie Brown fashion, their baseball team is the most hapless.

I was going to post a strip from the book here, and I've found quite a few sports-themed strips at gocomics.com, but none from the book. Looks like it could have been twice as long. And you'll just have to look for yourself.
two days


048) Lying by Sam Harris, finished June 23

I haven't read much by the New Atheists (occasionally bumping into them in online videos is grating enough), but Harris's arguments against lying are some of the best reasoned and replicable I've read. This is a terrific book I highly recommend. It's crazy short (you could easily read it in an afternoon) and inspiring. I've been moving away from justification of white lies for a long time and I'm now going to redouble my efforts.

If you feel that lying to get out of engagements or to make people feel better or to avoid conflict is justifiable, I encourage you to think again. Let Harris take a crack at your antipathy.
just over a week


047) Donald Duck Adventures 17, finished June 23

Three stories which lack much sense but succeed as goofy tales.
a couple nonconsecutive days


046) Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell, finished June 22

I bought this book for the middle child, in hopes that townspeople delighted to be scared would give him some tools for dealing with his anxiety. In fact, the better lesson was from the hapless monster, overcome with feelings of inadequacy who has to find his inner monsterness in order to reach his heroic potential. He likes the book. I hope it will be good for him.

As for me, I enjoyed it. Bright art, attractive lines, witty wordplay. I was startled by the bad language (I'm using this gterm very liberally---it wasn't awful or anything, but I'm not used to seeing bloody hells in a children's comic) and the use of colors in the word bubbles seemed to have no consistent reasoning. They don't identify characters and that inconsistency is confusing. Plus, sometimes they're just regular white for pages. I have no idea what the thinking was here. And there are no female characters to speak of.

But all that said! Fun book.
one sitting


045) Swamp Thing (the New 52) Volume 1: Raise Them Bones by Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette, Marco Rudy, finished June 21

I'm also reading the Snyder-penned Death of the Family (it's okay) and have read the first many issues of American Vampire (which I really liked, though that started off being cowritten by Stephen King, worth noting). This first collection of his Swamp Thing is good, but just a taste of where things are going. In true superhero fashion, our hero is battling the end of life, the universe, and everything. With a love story thrown in. Of course, he's in love with the enemy. It's pretty good, but impossible to judge just yet.

It's a horror title, and it is certainly horrific---the amalgamations of dead bodies is something to see. Some tropes I hate though. For instance, the child who seems like a child until it's revealed he's a supervillain then talks like he's been hunting Bond for decades. What's up with that? Can't the devil be a child? It would be more interesting, possibly more terrifying, and feel less manipulative.

The layouts are at times impossible to follow. I can't decide if that's more the penciler's fault or the colorist's, but they really need to work that out.
through the day


044) The Antler Boy and Other Stories by Jake Parker, finished July 19

Having been hit in the head with a rock, Little Lord Steed just wanted to hold ice to his bandaid and be read to after we got the bleeding stopped. And this is what he wanted to read. And he would like more Lucy Nova and Hugo Earhart, please.
all at once

Previously in 2014 . . . . :


ULTRAVIOLENCE: A Return to the Ambivalence of Lana Del Rey


I'm only listening to her new album through for the first time now as I'm writing this post (correction: the first song's just begun again). Spotify's got the version with the badwords blanked which I find more distracting than salving, but what do you know.

Last time Lana was promoting pedophilia and this time she's glamorizing domestic abuse. Last time I excused her as a satirist; this time I'm not sure. I suspect there's at least an emblem of satire, but she plays it so straight it's hard to be sure. Lorde, love her seventeen-year-old self, paints pretty clearly in satirical colors. So she's not dangerous. We can nod our heads and feel cool as a Kiwi. Lana never tilts her hand and so, well, how do we know if she's the hero or the villain? Whatever she's doing, it's more complex than either plain glamorization or straight satire.

I hadn't intended to write about Lana Del Rey again, but today's story on NPR got me thinking about her in new ways. In fact, I came to see her, at the end of the story, as a bit of a soulmate. Even if I find Ginsberg practically unreadable and am always giving his last name a soft g. She embraces her subject matter as worthy of attention, however she gives it, and views her work as coming from a position of spirituality. Which I find delightful and I'm sure enrages right-thinking people everywhere. Good for her. As someone who spends most of my time thinking about religion in fiction yet publishes largely gory murders of Santa Claus and homo-erotic piranha stories, I feel simpatico with her sentiments.

Anyway. Some early thoughts about the new album:

1. Her voice gets almost uncomfortably vulnerable in "Pretty When You Cry"---the title of which is intriguing as she actually sings "I'm pretty when I cry" in the chorus. This sense of identity displacement seems to suggest something worth suggestion, don't you think?

2. This album's less hiphoppy than Born to Die. Which means you can't count on the bass drawing you in as quickly as it did last time. But once drawn in, I'm finding as much to like.

3. I'm still thinking about how to read influence into the fact that she's been produced this time by one of the Black Keys guys.

4. "Money Power Glory" gets into the old courtesan career path. "F****d My Way to the Top" seems to have a more obviously ambivalent take on the same ideas. I'm interested in how she's directly addressing the historical and current fact that sex is coin of the realm.

5. Before I even heard it, thanks to this article, I was looking for a song taking melodic points from the Nina Rota theme for Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet. It includes lines like "the power of youth is on my mind" and phrases that could well be from an older and wiser Juliet. Should such a Juliet ever have existed. Rota's melody is one of the 20th-century's best, but Lana's version takes from it its high points of pleasure and redemption. Last time Lana referenced Romeo to talk about the downsides of youth and wealth and passion. This time she's doing something similar, though less explosive, more inclusive.

I've now found and switched over to the deluxe version of the album which includes bad words and more songs.

6. "The Other Woman"---I don't remember this from the other album so I'm wondering if this is a different production thereof or perhaps I was just distracted. I'm not checking. Sounds like a ballad from the late Sixties or the Seventies---the sort of torcher I would sneak out of bed to listen to when it came up on the radio and my parents were sitting in the kitchen doing whatever it was they did back then.

I'm now headed into the extra cuts, songs I haven't heard before. So I'm going to floss and to listen to them.

I encourage you to do the same.

And I encourage you to engage with Lana Del Rey with the same seriousness we generally save for fiction and poetry not set to music. Let's stop dismissing music either because it's pop or because it's not pop. That's a pretty thorough dichotomy. But hey---Lana Del Rey manages to be both.


So a dead girl, an evil empire, a mouse,
and a miser walk into a bar . . . .


043) Rachel Rising 1: The Shadow of Death by Terry Moore, finished June 16

Praise BAC for introducing me to another marvelous comic! Beautifully drawn, smartly written---Rachel Rising is topnotch stuff. I suppose it's "horror" but it feels like everyday life. And if it is horror, what subgenre is it? Zombies? Witches? Ghosts? I really couldn't say. It's that unique. Combine excellence with the unique and what do you get? Something to read, that's what. Buy this comic so Moore will have the money to keep making it.
two days


042) Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World by Carl Hiaasen, finished June 9

What's great about this book is not that contains any surprises regarding what makes Disney rather awful and terrifying and so so so compelling. What's great about it is the details. In just eighty-three pages, Hiaasen shares the native Floridian's view of what it's like to be invaded and have an enormous Stepford corporation take over. Disney is both dystopian and charming, and Hiaasen's view from inside Florida---remember he started life as a topnotch journalist---is insightful and focused and, even though sixteen years old, highly recommended.
couple weeks though most of those I did not have a copy


041) Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher by Jake Parker, finished June 8

Although Lord Steed has been "reading" this book pretty much every day, today he asked me to pick up where we'd left off a few weeks ago and read the last hundred pages.

Epic stuff. I don't understand how gravity works in space, apparently, but the tale is mythic in scope.
two nights about a month apart


040) Silas Marner by George Eliot, finished June 5

I've never really thought much about George Eliot until recently. Then a read a reminiscence on Middlemarch that placed it atop my must-read list, then I learned that writers I admire admire her (most emphatically Steve Peck---ask him about her). Then I read a clip from an anonymous novel on an old AP test that delighted me. Ends up it too is George Eliot. As these things are happening, I pick up an old paperback of Silas Marner which is slender, large-print, unabridged, and slender. An obvious place to start.

I'm not ready to pass judgment on Eliot regarding her greatness yet, but no question: Silas Marner is great. It started slow and frankly unpleasant. But she somehow took these unpleasant people and, though their unpleasant humanity, redeemed them. And before I knew it, I loved them. It was . . . magic. And so many bits of wisdom hidden within.

I'll have to finally open Middlemarch up on my Nook. After all, it's been there since I first time I added anything to it.

under two weeks

Previously in 2014 . . . . :


The good old TSA


TSA: Turn on your laptop.

Fellow: Can't. It's broken.

TSA: Why would you fly with a broken laptop?

Fellow: My brother fixes them. Told me to bring it along.

TSA: And what's that attached to it?

Fellow: Cooling fan.

TSA: No such thing.

Fellow: Dude. This is one right here. It's see-through. You can see the blades.

TSA: Blades---?

Fellow: Fan blades.

TSA: I'm afraid I'm going to have to break these things with a hammer.

Fellow: What?

TSA: Don't worry. I'll give you a receipt.

Fellow: But why? If you seriously think there might be a bomb in there, how is hitting it with a hammer making anyone safer?

TSA: Hey, Jim? Can you tase this guy? He said bomb.


Sarah Dooley is my new favorite person


I heard a snippet of Sarah Dooley on NPR one morning as I was lying in bed still grasping sleep with both hands. But what I heard was so good I googled the NPR story when I got to school and added her album to my 2014 Spotify list. I've been listening constantly since then. It's now the first album of new music I've purchased for myself since Spotify arrived in these United States.

I bought it for two reasons:
1. To make a copy for listening in the car.

2. To get the lyrics.
But she pulled a Sunfall on me and the lyrics were not included.

Darn you, Dooley! I need those lyrics! (For a screenplay I'm working on, I'm secretly imagining "Teenage Elegance" over the closing credits*, but before I get too attached or take any signals from it, I should know what it's actually saying. And I never know what songs actually say.)

Anyway, she's aesthetically a bit like Regina Spektor though she isn't Regina Spektor (which doesn't mean the similarities are accidental). With imagination, you can see the Fiona Apple comparison also. I think I smell some TMBG as well, but that remains undocumented.

Here's her kickstarted video to give you an introduction:

But it's not just music. Her promotional videos are painfully delicious as well (1 2 3). And her old web series about college gets better each awkward minute.

I don't know if she'll make her living as a screenwriter or a songwriter or a performer of some sort or, most likely, a 21st-century alchemical mixture of all, but she's going to be part of our lives going forward. Get to know her now.


Introducing heterosexuality


Back in 2005, back when this blog was still called the apparently inscrutable Tehachapiltdownman, I posted this:

There is something I would like to tell you all about, something I would like to get off my chest, something I don't want to pretend about anymore.

I like girls.

I remember when I first discovered I liked girls. It was early 1999, shortly after I had moved to Provo, Utah. I had volunteered to give a girl a ride in my automobile and after she got into my car and put on her seatbelt, I turned on the car and prepared to back out of my parking space.

"You like girls, don't you?" she said.


"You like girls."

She gestured to my cd player which was, I believe, playing K's Choice, a Belgian band fronted by a woman.

"Everytime I get in your car, there's a girl singing."

I thought back and realized she was right. Moonpools & CaterpillarsJuju ClubNatalie Merchant. Even aLilith Fair cd! How could I have been so blind! 

I was stunned and could give no answer but this:

"I guess you're right."

And it's been downhill from there.
Since that point, I've linked to this post endless times as I've been writing about women who sing (next in this series coming Thursday). Today I'm taking a moment and marking as many of these posts as I can find with the new tag heterosexual. Because let's face it:

Women who sing are the very purpose of my meager life. And I am totally okay with that. I mean: The Sundays. Amirite?






Thing die in book.


039) Screwed by by Tyler Kirkham, Keith Thomas, David Miller; finished June 3

Tyler gave me a copy of this trade collection when I was at FanX. Because of his contract with DC, he couldn't do the art for this story, but the idea is his---it's just written and drawn by other people. All of which is very Zenoscope which, if you are familiar with the publisher, let's you know that this is just the proverbial tip:

The story is designed to allow for maximum carnage which is at least as violent as Ottley (whom I did not meet at FanX as he was never at his booth) but more pervasive and without that sly humor Ottley employs.

In brief, a Frankenstein monster / hot lesbian wakes up in a hospital. She has superstrength but thinks everyone she sees is a monster (with one fellow hot-chick exception). Violence and breasts follow.

Which breasts I found distracting because I kept trying to decide if, even though they were enormous, they were "realistic" in shape. I didn't reach a conclusion. Though this might in part be because the art itself seemed inconsistent. Tyler drew the covers (what you see here) and those I thought were pretty good. The interior art however, although apparently by one person, did not stay consistent in stylization. I don't know how to account for this. Sometimes it was '90s Image Jim Lee lines-everywhere ugly; other times with was different kinds of ugly. (But usually ugly. Mostly intentionally so.) But regardless of the style, both men and women were absurd caricatures of "sexy" in that adolescent comic-book way.

I understand a sequel's coming. Maybe with the origin out of the way, they can do interesting things with this character. My favorite thing about the book was the lead, with her good intentions and evil outcomes. Her I could read more of. (Maybe she could even get a pair of jeans?) And since pretty much all the other characters are dead, maybe she's all I would see more of.

This interview with Tyler talks about his motivations.


038) Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, finished March 2

I read this book primarily to the youngest, and he primarily liked it, though I think mostly he could tell things were supposed to be funny rather than were funny. I know I enjoyed returning to these pages. (I also enjoyed checking the occasional footnote as this is a copy meant for Korean students. What was footnoted did not seem terribly consistent, but then: what do I know about how they teach English?)


037) Missile Mouse: Rescue on Tankium3 by Jake Parker, finished May 30

My kids have been digging Jake's work, lately. They've been carrying the two Missile Mouse books and Antler Boy (though they don't like "Antler Boy") around, from chair to couch, to bed. I've read the MM story in Antler Boy several times, and parts of the full-length Missile Mouse books, but this is the first time I've read one all the way through in ages.

Good stuff. Very mythic.

Check out his new online project.


036) Undeath & Taxes by Carter Reid, finished May 26 or maybe a couple days earlier

A gratis copy Reid gave me at the SLC Comic Con FanX after seeing the other zombie-ish freebie a Mormon artist gave me. (Reid made the traditional moan that his work was so awful his people will hate him. I made my traditional eyeroll and showed him the competition. He felt better and gave me a copy of his book.

Zombie Nation tastes and is branded like a webcomic and now that I'm typing up my thoughts, I check, and yup. It is. So you can read what I've read and more besides.

What you won't find (I don't think) is the book's bonus art---celebrities done up zombie-style, guides to the typical varieties of movie zombies, etc. So that's the reason to buy it.

The humor is . . . very webcomicky. Ineffably webcomicky. I mean---without knowing it was webbased, I could immediately tell it was a webcomic. If anyone's written about this webcomicky flavor and what makes it so identifiable, I would appreciate the link. I need some vocabulary to help me explain this new thing.

Zombie Nation's humor is grotesque and silly-sexy and heavy on pop-culture referents.

(And now you can get two books and the eyeball flask.)
about a month

Previously in 2014 . . . . :